2021 Mountain West Football Preview. West Division

Posted: July 25, 2021 in Uncategorized

The West is the best (those of you who recognize the reference, congratulations). Three teams will vie for the MWC title game against Boise. The team finding itself at the top of the West could easily sport a conference record of no more than +2. Believe me.

Nevada in 2021 will charge hard. They walloped opponents during the first half (162-105) in 2020. Lots and lots of impact players return for senior season dos.

Offense: Carson Strong threw for more than 2,800 yards in 8 games. Imagine that number expanded to 12 games. I’ll do the math for you. Let’s see . . . um, 4,287 mind blowing yards. His 355 attempts expanded would be 532. Boom. Toa Taua, Devonte Lee and Avery Morrow return as the top three 2020 running backs. The top five (!) recievers return as well. Romeo Doubs (this guy is talent plus), Cole Turner, Troy Horton, Melquan Stovall and Justin Lockhart will continue to flourish as Mr. Strong throws, tosses and hurls the football downfield. 441 yards of total offense will increase in 2021.

Defense: 18 of the top 20 tacklers return. Granted, the Wolfpack defense gave up an average of 377.7 yards of total offense during the 2020 year. Honestly, who cares?

San Jose State remains in the race because Nick Starkel returns for super senior season two. Much of the 2020 talent returns. Additionally, many mavens miss the obvious mark of superior Spartan defense.

Offense: Mr. Starkel is a mild tick below Carson Strong. Mild. San Jose State does a better job of mixing the pass with the run than the Wolfpack. Tyler Neven (7.8 ypr) and Kairee Robinson return as the #1 and #2 running backs. Derrick Deese, Jr. (the best tight end in the MWC) leads a group of returning receivers (Isaiah Hamilton, Jermiah Braddock and Isaiah Holiness) eager to again enjoy the talent of Mr. Starkel.

Defense: 19.9 points allowed per game in 2020. Golly gee. 120 yards rushing per game. Oy vey. The Spartan defense was best during the third and fourth quarters in 2020. Only 62 points allowed during the last half of 8 games. San Jose loses only 1 of their top 20 tacklers. Close games go to the Spartans in 2021.

San Diego State has a yet to be decided quarterback competition entering summer practice (sorry, August preparation for a season that begins in early September does not render mid-year practice “fall camp”. Especially in San Diego). The offense sputtered often during 2020 especially when Greg Bell limped through the remainder of the 8 game season. A year to forget is no reason for a .500 result.

Offense: Quickly summing the quarterback competition; Lucas Johnson (king of hamstring injury), Jordan Brookshire (throwing downfield more than 25 yards is difficult) and newcomer Jaylen Mayden (transfer from Mississippi State) will likely share the qb duties as the year progresses. Speaking of injury, if, a big if, Greg Bell plays the entire year without pause, the Aztec running game will return to form. Chance Bell (4.9 ypr), Keagun Williams (4.8 ypr) and Jordan Byrd (6.4 ypr) provide ample support. Jesse Mathews, Daniel Bellinger, Kobe Smith and Elijah Kothe provide proven targets for whomever quarterbacks the Aztecs.

Defense: If you were impressed with San Jose State’s 19.9 points per game, may I introduce you to the Aztecs’ 2020 17.75 result. Fewer than 100 yards rushing per game was allowed (98.3). A stingy 29.75% third down conversions was allowed. Red zone touchdowns amounted to 12 of 23 attempts by opponents. SDSU’s 2 MWC losses were by 11 and 3 points respectively. The top 3 tacklers leave the Aztecs in 2021. 17/20 returning isn’t bad.

Fresno State has entered the floundering zone. Not good for Bulldog football. They started poorly in the first quarter, recovered in the second, then played less than inspired football the second half in 2020. As a result, giving up an average of 30 points per game is cause for my charge of floundering, if not outright lollygagging.

Offense: Jake Haener returns as starting quarterback. He averaged just shy of 337 yards passing per game. The top three running backs return: Ronnie Rivers (5.1 ypr), Jordan Mims (5.2 ypr) and Jevon Bigelow (4.1 ypr). Mr. Haener will find familiar faces awaiting his passes. Jalen Cropper (14 ypc), Keric Wheatfall (15.8 ypc) and Josh Kelly (15.0 ypc) will enjoy another year of quality production. However, as of this publication, the Bulldogs have 2 redshirt freshmen and 1 true freshman in reserve on behalf of Mr. Haener. One crushing tackle will easily upend the Fresno State offense in 2021.

Defense: The center of Fresno State’s concern. 430 yards of offense allowed per game in 2020. No wonder they allowed 30 points per game. In 26 visits to the red zone, opponents scored on 21 occasions. 18 of the top 20 tacklers return. Hopefully they tackle better in 2021.

Hawaii has an offense that giveth as well as a defense that giveth. A poor combination that does not change in 2021.

Offense: Chevan Cordeiro returns. His 62% completion rate is to be admired. His 116 rushing attempts brings the sanity of the coaching staff into question. Calvin Turner (60 rushing attempts as contrast) and Dae Dae Hunter lead a punchless running game. Jared Smart , Nick Mardner and Jonah Panoke seek to improve on their 2020 catches.

Defense: 18 of the top 20 return. However, this group allowed 5.7 yards per play in 2020. 408.8 yards wandered by the Hawaii defense each game. Opponents outscored Hawaii 72-38 in the first quarter in 2020. An improved start is the beginning of a better 2021 season.

UNLV . . . um, well, bad football improves slightly in 2021.

Offense: The Rebels averaged less than 18 points per game, 4 yards per rush and 10 yards per catch in 2020. Anemic is too kind a description. 10 of 19 red zone visits were touchdowns. Boo. Justin Rogers and Doug Brumfield battle for the starting qb slot. Charles Williams (4.4 ypr) gives way to Courtney Reese (5.9 ypr) as the #1 running back. Receivers Kyle Williams and Zyell Griffin can stretch the field, if the quarterback can locate them.

Defense: The UNLV defense gave up 228 points in 6 games. An average of 38 points was allowed each game. Opponents registered 482 yards in total offense per game. The Rebel defense was pummeled all four quarters allowing 50 (1st quarter), 83 (second quarter), 52 (third quarter) and 43 (fourth quarter) points in 2020. The wind blows in Las Vegas and so does the Rebel defense in 2021. I’ve most likely used that line before.

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